Because today I walked by a man shrieking about “rock and rollers” on the “highway to Hell” and surrounded by a crowd of variously laughing, screaming, and scoffing college students, today I write about church.
I recently stumbled upon writer Addie Zierman’s personal blog. She is a beautiful writer, and when I read her work I feel like I am reading my life. She writes compellingly about her struggle with depression and the sort of black and white, unrealistic and unsatisfying answers to compelling questions about life, death and religion that are — unfortunately — so common in so many churches in America. Her faith is a deeper one, one that is nuanced and a little tangled, more mystical and sublime than the one I relied on for many years.
For many years, like Zierman, I relied on the sort of faith that ultimately proved unsatisfying when I faced illness and death and pain. When I encountered these, I was left in desperate search of something more fulfilling, something that could account for the brokenness that had ravaged me. I found it, and though I often struggle with doubt and unbelief and skepticism, I continue to find it in places like CityChurch Fort Lauderdale.
For the past year, I have had the opportunity to be an artist-in-residence at CityChurch, responsible for finding and drawing out the beauty of God through music and art, and for using that beauty to help heal the social ills in the community around us. Not only does CityChurch believe that artists should be given space and provision to work (i.e. artists should not feel like they have to donate their talent/time as an act of “service”), but the leadership also believes that church can be a place for asking questions, for understanding and for thinking and working through thorny issues. I am so thankful that this place exists and that I am now part of it.
I thought about all of that today as I walked past the man for whom there are no questions about religious practice, only answers to be shouted callously across the designated “Free Speech” area of a university campus. And although I unquestionably support his right to say the things he said, I wonder about the wisdom of it. For me, at least, I do not cling to his brand of faith. I am much more drawn to the newly-formed writer’s group, sponsored by my latest artist-in-residence initiative at CityChurch, where I sat two nights ago with a group of people who have struggled with mental illness, addiction, dysfunction and a myriad of other unspeakable hurts. And we were together, and our writing spoke of the One who came to succor the poor in spirit, and though we are living broken, we looked together towards healing and redemption. And that is what a place like CityChurch can do.
Previously from Laura Creel:
♦ Eating Larabars in London: A Memory
♦ Viral Video of the Week: In Honor of MLK Day
♦ BFFs Dennis Rodmas and Kim Jong-un’s Relationship Shaky
♦ Heads Up, Parents: Your Kid’s College Education is Built on Tired, Poor, Sometimes Even Homeless, Teachers
♦ Waiting for Christmas in America